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The Most Gripping Characters on TV Dramas: A Tony Soprano Standard

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Oct 06, 2013 | 11:00am EDT

Hugh Laurie, HouseFox/Everett

 Sometimes it's the writing and dialogue that brings us in to TV shows. Other times, it's the actors themselves. 

 Dr. Gregory House: House, M.D.

Hugh Laurie imbued the anti-social House with more layers than the thickest onion. He also gave nearly every man out there an excuse to explain to their significant other why they hadn't shaved in three days: "Well, you love that Hugh Laurie scruff..."

Walter White: Breaking Bad

It's still hard to believe that Bryan Cranston, who has been a genius in showing the transformation in White from good to evil played the hapless dad on Malcolm in the Middle. His work during the last episodes of this show has been nothing short of a master class in acting. People are on the edge of their seat to see what happens with this druglord.

Tony Soprano: The Sopranos

Rest in peace, James Gandolfini. Your work as Tony Soprano was some of the best acting seen on TV. Your portrayal of the head of a Mafia cartel who juggles both business and home life was a mix of fury and pain (both personal and meting it out on others).  

Omar: The Wire

One of the best characters on TV in the past decade, a thug with a strict code who also happened to lead a lifestyle that didn't mesh with his tough-guy exterior. It's a shame he went out like he did - shot in a convenience store.

Don Draper: Mad Men

Draper, a man who is not who he says he is, is played to perfection by Jon Hamm. It's a good thing Thomas Jane passed over the role. A philandering husband with no sense of loyalty would be hard to like, but the suave Madison Avenue ad man pulls it off. It's going to be interesting to see what happens to him during the final season.

Frank Pembleton: Homicide: Life On the Streets

Andre Braugher's work as Pembleton, a tortured man whose dedication to justice came at the expense of everything else was near perfect. His seething intensity in the interrogation room (aka "the box") was a sight to behold and Braugher was mesmerizing in every line he spoke. He brillantly handled his character having a stroke as well.

Dr. Mark Greene: ER

Anthony Edwards played Greene as the anti-House - a doctor who cared. He also showed how a doctor's personal life can spill over into his professional life, especially when he got attacked in the bathroom. His death from a brain tumor remains one of the saddest moments on any show. 

Dana Scully: The X-Files

Gillian Anderson was much more than a pretty face to play alongside David Duchovny's Mulder. She had brains and skepticism to his almost childlike willingness to believe everything.  

Dexter Morgan: Dexter 

 A sympathetic serial killer? Michael C. Hall is able to show someone devoid of real emotion as someone we can root for. It's too bad that this show's final season is also the same one as Breaking Bad

Vic Mackey: The Shield

Michael Chiklis was far from The Commish when he portrayed this utterly corrupt cop that still had the tiniest shred of conscience buried inside of him despite everything. He first thought he was getting results, no matter what, but that soon spiraled into doing things like murdering a new member of your own squad and other things like that. Mackey lived life brutally.

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